What is Eat Mendocino?

This is a question I’ve been asked multiple times in the last couple of weeks of posting prepping process photos and that question alone shows me how much time has passed. A significant number of people I know and love now in the County weren’t around back then!

Eat Mendocino is the name for a local food experiment, coined by Sarah Bodnar who did the project with me in 2013. It was and will be an investigation into the food ecosystem made by putting my body on the line. For a calendar year, January 1st to December 31st, everything I eat and drink including oils and salt and spices, must come from Mendocino County.

I always intended to do this project again a decade later, and that time has now come.

It’s not intended to be prescriptive- it’s not a comment on how anyone should eat. It’s a farmer and rancher exploring the limits and celebrating the abundance of this place by choosing to be entirely dependent on it. It’s a show of trust in my community and a willingness to find our gaps by stepping into them. Obviously a lot changes in a decade. We are stronger in so many ways, and have also suffered losses. I’m also not the plucky young farmer I was then, I’ve gained competence but lost the simplistic certainty that comes with the limited perspective of youth.

Eat Mendocino 2023 is a survey of what has changed in local food here in the last ten years, and an exploration of what is different internally, what has been slowly simmering in my personal kitchen this last decade.

The rules:

No anonymous food. This means no fillers and additives. We harvest saltwater to make salt, we know the people who press our oil. When we say everything we mean everything. I won’t be drinking coffee or eating chocolate or buying (I still feel conflicted about this one) locally made products whose ingredients are not locally produced.

People can bring food to trade with us from their region when they visit, and we can bring local food with us if we travel, and enjoy local food where we are too.

A new rule for 2023 is that in the last decade The MendoLake Food Hub was born. Fortunate Farm has been a partner from the beginning, and we are deeply invested in their success. We host a Node for distribution on our farm. Relationships are more important than arbitrary borders, and the partner farms in the Hub are my community directly. Therefore, all produce on the Hub is kosher for EM, even if the farm is across the County line.

I will be writing through the whole project. Posts will be a combination of process and recipes, food system discussions, and reflections on the changes over time in this very small food shed over the last decade. Nobody will get judged for their food choices on my page, but I will do my best to share ways to make local food more accessible for everyone as I find them.

I’m amazed at the audacity of my young self to assume I would be farming in this county ten years into the future and be able and willing to repeat this project, but that prediction came true, though not in a way I would have imagined. I am still here and I am still willing to do some ridiculous stuff for love and curiosity. You’re welcome to join me!

(The first photo here is me in Fall 2012, in my bean patch prepping for 2013. The second is Fall 2022, processing dry beans, preparing for 2023.)

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